LONDON: Britain’s first national election in five years will take place on May 6, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced today, launching a month long campaign that could end in his ouster and the return of the opposition Conservative Party to power for the first time in 13 years.

After months of anticipation over the election date, Brown will travel to Buckingham Palace to ask Queen Elizabeth II for permission to dissolve Parliament and call the first national vote since 2005.

For Brown, appreciated by some but widely unloved, election day could end a three-year tenure as Prime Minister marked by the near-collapse of the British economy and beset by division within his party.

Defeat would bring to a close a British political era that began with Tony Blair’s landslide 1997 election

victory, which returned

the Labour Party to power

and brought an unprecedented three successive electoral triumphs for the centre-left organisation.

Britain’s Conservatives — the party of Margaret

Thatcher and Winston Churchill — hope to win a national election for the first time since 1992.

Brown — who has never before contested a national election as party leader — is

seeking to woo voters

stung by the impact of the financial crisis, weary of the war in Afghanistan and furious at a scandal over lawmakers’ inflated and fraudulent expense claims.

The 59-year-old, who succeeded Blair in 2007, said

he would stake his chances

on his record in guiding Britain through the global economic meltdown.